By Garren Shipley -- firstname.lastname@example.org
WHITE POST -- Even the hardest rain couldn't hide the tears.
Family and friends by the score gathered in White Post on Wednesday morning to bid farewell to Kayleigh Marie Plamondon.
Law enforcement officials haven't made a formal announcement that a body discovered at the former Lost City home of the parents of Justin Shane "Pi" Slater, 24, of 117 Buffalo Trail, Shawneeland, is Plamondon.
Slater has confessed to killing his brother in Frederick County.
But weeping family members and morose friends said Wednesday that they've accepted the fact that the missing 22-year-old is not coming back.
Plamondon used to work with horses at the picturesque home of Emily Day, where Wednesday's memorial was held in a steady rain.
Day said she'd always hoped that there would be a big crowd for Kayleigh.
But "I always thought it would be for your wedding," she said, crying.
"Kayleigh was the best of all of us. She brought out the best in all of us," Day said. "She had a personality that made everyone want to forget about being grumpy and get done what needed doing with a smile."
Day recounted an e-mail from a family friend.
"Every time she thinks of Kayleigh she sees her bathed in sunlight," Day said. "I think that really sums up Kayleigh -- she was sunshine in a human form."
One by one, friends and family lined up to share their memories of Plamondon.
"She was as tough as nails," said Graham Alcock, another friend of the family, who officiated at Wednesday's gathering.
Alcock recalled a trail ride gone wrong, and what it revealed about Plamondon.
She was riding "a pony called Politely, and she fell off and broke her arm," Alcock said. "My wife told the arm was bent into an 'S' shape."
Plamondon took it in stride. "Never a tear," said Alcock.
Pain didn't get in her way, neither did fear.
Plamondon loved to work with horses, and wasn't afraid of working with mounts that were on the wild side, Alcock said. Quite the contrary.
"She seemed to pick out the challenging ones that needed a little more TLC," he said.
That's probably because of the extraordinary gift the young woman had for dealing with animals, added Betsy Parker, another family friend.
Parker recalled an incident when "an African goat had jumped into one of our pens and was mixing with our goats," she said.
Nothing could be done to soothe the frantic animal. That is, until Plamondon came along.
She spent three hours with the animal, eventually soothing it.
The Loudoun Valley High graduate also had a way of helping people with difficult transitions.
"Kayleigh came to work with me a couple of years ago," said Janet Hitchen, a photographer who was making the transition to digital photography at the time.
It wasn't any easy move for someone who didn't know her way around computers, Hitchen said.
Enter Plamondon. "She learned Photoshop," Hitchen said, and got the studio's new digital domain organized.
"She was good at everything she did," Hitchen said, looking down at a photo of Plamondon she took not long ago. "Such a loss, such a waste."